Unlocking equality and empowerment through blockchain technology

By Tan Gürpinar, assistant professor of business analytics and information systems January 30, 2024

Tan Gürpinar

Although primarily recognized for its application in Bitcoin, blockchain technology is still on the cusp of unveiling its true potential in bridging societal divides, foster equality, and empower marginalized groups both in business and society.

At its core, blockchain is not merely a singular technology but an assortment of innovative solutions serving various areas. Therefore, distinguishing between crypto and enterprise blockchains is important, even though both concepts are getting more integrated. While classic crypto platforms establish open, public systems for direct peer-to-peer interactions, enterprise blockchains are tailored for business scenarios. These enterprise solutions enable the efficient management of permissions, access, and reading rights, notably in tracking and tracing of goods, managing supplies, or ensuring tamper-proof documentation of origins and transport conditions. In our increasingly interconnected world with a rapidly growing number of smart devices, machine-to-machine communications and payments further drive relevance for blockchain solutions.

According to a survey by Casper Labs, a remarkable 87% of tech decision-makers express their intent to invest in blockchain solutions within the coming year. However, despite the mounting interest, the landscape of blockchain projects tells a story of unrealized adoption. Currently, a substantial portion of investments funnels into proof of concepts, with only about 12% of enterprise blockchain projects attaining productive status according to Gartner. The challenges are multifaceted: grasping the qualitative benefits of blockchain, establishing trust and transparency, and formulating compelling profitability statements for investment decisions. Moreover, identifying which use cases are really meaningful, engaging stakeholders, and navigating governance frameworks present additional hurdles. The premature nature of blockchain projects is also reflected in research that is essential to comprehend the technology's nuances, use cases, and deliver integrative methods and tools: While in Web of Science, a strong increase in publications could be observed (from under 500 in 2017 to around 8400 in 2022) - yet, only a fraction of this literature delves into the business domain to support adoption and analyze the impacts of technology integration.

Despite the slow pace (at least it feels slow for our generation), the integration of blockchain solutions hold immense potentials not only for businesses but society yet to be fully unveiled and actualized. In the area of finance, they are enabling individuals without bank accounts to engage securely and efficiently in transactions, fostering financial inclusion, leveling the playing field, and ensuring broader participation in the economy. Moreover, blockchains open a transformative gateway for artists, providing an opportunity to exhibit and monetize their art, and, therefore, liberating them from traditional constraints and entry barriers. What is clear: Blockchain technology isn't simply a platform for cryptocurrencies - it represents a potent tool that has the capacity to redefine societal structures and cultivate equality. In business, blockchain consortia are already rooted in open-source collaborations. By promoting democratic governance principles and equitable power distribution, these consortia not only try to enhance transparency but also encourage shared resources and open knowledge. Looking ahead, the concept of truly decentralized data spaces sets the stage for federated learning - a potential game changer for data equality in AI. This innovation could change the accessibility of data, making AI development fairer, less biased, and more open to everyone.

Hence, while the journey towards realizing blockchain's potential for equality may appear gradual and a little rocky, the transformative power it holds needs to be unleashed. We need everyone to be curious, to collectively explore, innovate, and ensure fairness and inclusivity, amplifying the voices of those often unheard.

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